Benchwork building basics

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I'm preparing to design my layout and buy supplies so I can build the benchwork. Can someone outlay the various benchwork building methods along with pros & cons for me? My layout will be a +/- 24" wide shelf around a 14'-6" x 16'-8" room.

Thanks in advance,


5th Generation Texian
Chad, I used the same design for my layout.

In a nutshell, I attached a pair of ledger boards (1x2) along the wall and screwed (sheetrock screws, 2 1/2" long) into the studs in the wall. One ledger is at the height of the layout, the second is close to the floor or just above the baseboard.

Then i ran 1x2 (on edge) away from the upper ledger board to the outer 1x2 frame. To support the outer edge, I ran a 1x2 diagonally down to the lower ledger. Those diagonals are basically serving as the legs for the outer edge. Depending on the width, these diagonal legs may be every 2,3 or 5 or more feet apart.

Note that I used 1x2 lumber exclusively. Each joint is "assisted" by small angle brackets (Home Depot, Lowe's) that use screws to beef up the joint, as well as carpenter's glue.

I used 3/8" plywood over the frame, it too was glued and screwed in place. Gluing and screwing makes for one extremely strong assembly!!

Some of the layout is about 4' wide, iin those sections I made a leg that rests on the floor. But only 2 places need legs, the majority uses those diagonal braces back to the wall, and the wall supports all of the layout weight (except for the legs of course). This layout is lightweight and extremely strong.
I did the same as Ken except I used 1" by 3" 's. Also I glued my foam right to the gridwork, didn't need plywood! I do have my cross supports 1' apart. Its like Jeff stated If you get a hundred posts on this subject you probably get a hundred ways to do it! :eek:
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Thanks for the suggestions so far, guys. I know for sure that I'm anchoring directly to the studs, since we own the house and plan to live in it for ~10 years; however, I still want it to be somewhat modular so I can remove it mostly intact when we do move. I was originally thinking of using shelf brackets to support the layout, but they may not be rigid enough to suit me, so I think I'll end up using the sort of support that kenw mentioned. I think at some point I want staging about 6-8" below the layout, but I might be killing myself to try to include all that from the beginning, on the other hand if I don't plan for it now, it will be a royal PITA to add later. I want the staging because I'm modelling a busy mainline, and I want continous running, but I also want to be able to run a series of different trains around the mainline and need someplace to park them other than my main town's relatively small yard.

I was originally thinking of going with the 2" foam, but from my yard, one line goes uphill and the other goes downhill, and I was thinking it would be a lot of work to build up the foam to the desired height and then cut into it for the road bed and surrounding scenery. How hard is it to work with and shape this stuff?

Lots of stuff I'm still trying to figure out on paper before I start building, like a rough track plan etc....
Chad, The foam is real easy to shape. You can use a serated knife, razor knife, a file or rasp. They also make hot wire tools that slice through it easily. If you are planning on going up from your base, Woodland Scenics makes a real nice foam incline. Going down might be a challange unless you also drop your bench work. This also would depend on how far down you are going to drop! :eek:
I use a 6" serrated knife to cut foam. Have a vacuum close by to pick up any of the inevitable dinky pieces that flake off. Been cutting foam for the new module down in the basement, but haven't needed to carve big terrain. In those cases, I've heard folks cutting with one hand and holding the vacuum nozzle with the other. Or, they tape the knife to the nozzle!


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